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If you frequent coffee discussion groups — especially those that focus on espresso drinks — you’ll quickly notice that they talk about coffee measurements in grams rather than tablespoons. While weighing your coffee may seem like a pretension, there are some very sound reasons for using weight instead of volume to measure the amount of coffee in your brew.
The difference between a tablespoon and a gram is pretty obvious — one is a measure of volume and the other is a measure of weight. In general — and nearly always in particular — weight is a more accurate measure than volume because weight does not change with the shape of the object being measured. You’ve heard the old joke: which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead? The answer, of course, is that they both weigh the same amount — a pound. They do not, however, take up the same amount of space.
Now let’s talk about coffee. Your directions for making coffee may state to use two tablespoons to every 6 ounces of water. That measurement doesn’t take into account the shape and form of the coffee. Try this. Take two tablespoons of whole coffee beans and grind them in your coffee grinder. Now measure them again. It’s considerably less than two tablespoons, isn’t it?
While the differences in weight will be smaller, you’ll also see a disparity between the weight of coarsely ground coffee and finely ground coffee – and that difference can make a profound difference when you tamp it down in a portafilter to make your espresso. Those few grains of coffee can also make a big difference when you’re brewing more than just a few ounces of coffee. The coarser the grind, the more volume of coffee you need to make up the appropriate weight of coffee grounds to brew your java.
The answer is essentially the same — it’s all about precision. When you’re brewing a pourover coffee, you’re pouring hot water over ground coffee, and you’re doing it slowly. It’s important to keep the water hot and to get the right water-to-coffee ratio. When you’re pouring directly from the kettle, it’s impossible to accurately measure the water by volume. If you set your cup or pot on a scale, you can get a precisely accurate measurement of the amount of water you’re using for your coffee.
It may take a little time to get used to the idea of weighing your coffee instead of measuring it out in tablespoons, but you’ll really appreciate the consistency of flavor that results. Gram scales are just another extremely affordable way to improve your coffee brewing — you can get a decent one for less than $20. Why not indulge and make your morning coffee better than ever?